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Nehru, Jawaharlal (1889–1964), Prime Minister of India Image With digital objects
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Letter from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

India House.—The flu prevented her from conveying personally to the Pethick-Lawrences her brother (Nehru)’s invitation to India, but he will probably mention the matter himself when he comes to London in a few days’ time. Suggests arrangements for a meeting at India House.

Draft of an article by Lord Pethick-Lawrence entitled ‘India’s Place in the World’

A tribute to Nehru, written for an unidentified volume.

(Carbon copy of a typed original, corrected by hand in pencil. Written some time after the assassination of Gandhi on 30 Jan. 1948.)

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Transcript

INDIA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD.
by Lord Pethick-Lawrence.

I am happy to be given the opportunity to pay a tribute to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the pages of this volume. During the years that I have been privileged to count him among my friends my admiration for his qualities has steadily grown. But he has told me that where so many have rendered service to his country he dislikes being singled out for special praise. On the personal side I will content myself therefore with the one incontrovertible statement that India has been indeed fortunate to have as her first Prime Minister a man of his noble character, rich and varied experience and exceptional breadth of outlook.

India has secured control of her own destiny at a time when the whole civilisation of the world is being reincarnated. Old customs and old ideas which have held sway almost from the dawn of history are being discarded. The nation-states of Western Europe in which these ideas were recently embodied are fallen from their high estate. New thoughts are filling the minds of men and women. Some of these have already taken shape. Others are in the realm of the subconscious waiting to be born. India has not merely to adapt herself to these kaleidoscopic changes in the pattern of human life, she has also to play an active part in the conception and gestation of the civilisation that is to be. How important this part is will be realised when we descend from the general to the particular.

First, on the purely material plane, the world is being transformed by the new powers of mass production, radio, television, flight, radar and atomic fission. Every one of these is capable of being used to set men and women free from the sordid scramble for animal existence and enable them to develop to its full stature their physical, moral and spiritual being. But alternatively they may be abused so as to bring about the greater enslavement and degradation of the human race. Which shall it be? The voice of India will be an important factor in the decision.

Next come the recent biological discoveries including new means of eradicating disease in men plants and animals. It is even possible that we are on the eve of revolutionary changes in the whole matter of the growth & production of food. India has suffered grievously in the past from malnutrition and preventible ill health. The responsibility now rests upon her own scientists to find out the remedy and upon her statesmen to apply it.

The civilisation now passing away was founded upon inequality. Even upright and religious men and women seemed to see nothing wrong in a structure of society in which some people lived in luxury while others toiled unceasingly and remained in squalor and degradation. But Gandhiji was one of those who saw in this system an affront to human dignity; and he inveighed against it unceasingly by precept and example. At first the doctrine of communism in its pure form seemed to be the answer but in its application it has got entangled in power politics and totalitarian dictatorship. The new civilisation has to be founded upon human equality; and India in memory of her Mahatma and in accord with the generous impulses of her Prime Minister will wish to take a foremost place among the nations who are imbued with the new spirit.

In the realm of internal government India has astonished the world by her achievement. Even those of us who had the greatest faith in her statesmen scarcely dared to hope that she would be able to integrate the whole of her territory in so short a time and with such general approval. The highest praise is due to all those who have contributed to this remarkable result. It augurs well for the future stability of her State and provides a fine example to other nations.
What of the international outlook? Here I am convinced that India has a part of paramount importance to play. She occupies a pivotal place on the map of the world. She looks westward to Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, eastward to China to the Pacific and to the Americas, northward to the lands of the Soviet Union in Asia, South West to the varied races of Africa and South East to the new civilisation of Australia and New Zealand. So situated she cannot exist isolated and detached.

The world needs friendship and co-operation. It needs the mutual interchange of materials and ideas. Above all it needs peace. But peace like liberty requires eternal vigilance for its preservation. It requires the constant avoidance of the pairs of opposites—arrogance and cowardice, aggressiveness and subservience, self-sufficiency and undue dependence, anarchy and regimentation. A free and democratic India in close association with other likeminded free and democratic peoples can be a great bulwark of peace and of constructive fellowship in the community of nations.

Long may Panditji be spared to exercise his wise leadership in guiding the destinies of his country!

Script of a talk recorded by Lord Pethick-Lawrence for the BBC on 14 Sept. 1954

(Carbon copy. Date of recording, etc., taken from 5/120a.)

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Transcript

I made the acquaintance of Gandhi long before he was a world figure. In the early years of the century he became interested in the British Suffragette movement and came to lunch with my wife and myself in our London flat. He told us about his non-violent resistance campaign in South Africa. We found that we had much in common, not least in his doctrine that a willingness to endure suffering was a surer way to win political reform than to inflict it upon others.

The bond of friendship thus formed remained unbroken throughout the many vicissitudes of our political relationship. Even when I was most in disagreement with him I never doubted his sincerity and singlemindedness and I am confident that he never doubted mine.

I had many talks at different times with Gandhi—in India in 1926 when his resistance movement was at its height, in London in 1931 when we sat together on the Round Table Conference and during the many months when as Secretary of State I was in India with the British Cabinet Mission discussing daily with him and other leading Indian Statesmen the future governance of their land.

I have sometimes heard it said that Gandhi had an animosity against this country, and that particularly in the later part of his life he tried to do harm to Britain and her Empire. This is quite untrue. Gandhi had no such feelings or designs. Throughout his life he carried with him friendly memories of the time he spent in England as a young man and of the English friends he made then and on other visits.

What distressed Gandhi was imperialism as he saw it expressed in the attitude of the British Government towards India. He believed passionately that this was soul-destroying not only to his own countrymen but to the nobler instincts for freedom inherent in the British people. It was against this that he formulated his battle cry of “Quit India” which he was careful to explain did not mean expulsion from India of men and women of British race but the end of British rule. And it was because the word Dominion smacked to him of Domination that he rejected the offer of Dominion Status.

I never discussed with him the precise form of relationship between India and the British Commonwealth which would be most acceptable to him after India obtained her independent status and in fact he died before the matter came to be decided at a Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. But I have no reason to think that he would have disagreed with the attitude taken up by Pandit Nehru which was accepted there.

I did not find Gandhiji a very easy person with whom to negotiate a political settlement. Where he considered a matter of principle was at stake he was very unwilling to make concessions. Even when in verbal discussion he appeared to have conceded a point I frequently discovered afterwards that his interpretation of our talk was not the same as mine. Some little word or phrase he had used which seemed unimportant at the time, I found later rendered the concession nugatory.

On the other hand Gandhi was often most generous in attributing good motives to those who differed from him. Another of his endearing qualities was his unbounded faith in the possibilities of ordinary men and women. There was no height of nobility or sacrifice which he would hesitate to demand from them. And it was wonderful how often they responded to his faith in them.

But this too had its dangerous side for he did not always seem to me to realise that Governments in the exercise of their responsibilities must sometimes use compulsory powers to restrain wrongdoers from doing harm to others.

Gandhi was known as a Mahatma on account of his ascetic life and his great spiritual faith which he drew from Hindu, Christian, Moslem and other religious sources. He was a great man too in the mundane sense because he won the allegiance of tens of millions of his fellow men and women and was rightly accounted one of the architects of Indian independence. I treasure his memory not only for these qualities but as that of a firm personal friend during the major part of a long life.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—Reflects on the colourfulness of Indian life. The mission are awaiting the results of their statement, and he has made his broadcast and addressed the press.—(Later.) Jinnah threatens not to answer for three or four weeks, but others have made encouraging signs.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
May 18. 46

My own very dear Beloved.

I have had to say to myself tht it is no good letting my heart or my head be obsessed with the idea tht I want to be home for 26th May. I came out here to do a certain job & I have just got to stay till it’s finished; & that’s that. As soon as it is finished I shall come home as fast as I can, you may be sure, to be with my old love again, & the day I come back & see you whatever it be according to the calendar will be our 26th May—our 45th anniversary!

I am so delighted to hear in your letters of how full your days have been with pleasurable activity. It is music in my ears; for I do so love to know tht you are enjoying yourself.

As for me my life here is full of colour & experience. Colour on the physical plane. The powerful sun, the flaming trees, the flashing birds, the darting chipmunks & lizards. The trees are red (Gold Mahar), gold (Cassia Sistilla) & apple-blossom tinted (Cassia Nodosa). Colourful personalities Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, Wavell[,] to say nothing of people like Meliscent Shepherd, Mrs Naidu, Agatha Harrison & our own delegations & the secretaries.

So far in all the “changing vicissitudes of this mortal life” I have been upheld to keep my balance & my health. I eat well, digest well, sleep well & remain unfretted, remembering as Maud {1} said in Kashmir tht it is nt I that am doing it but He.

So my beloved I am patient & I am sure you will be also to await the day of our recession when it comes in His good will. I do not think it will be so very long before the work is finished here but it is still quite impossible to say.

Our D-day has come & gone, & we are awaiting its result. Our message {2} has not so far evoked any violent antagonism. I have made my broadcast {3}[,] addressed my press conference, met individual editors & so far it has been sunny weather. All this may be dashed at any minute but let us at any rate bask in the sunshine while it lasts!

Evening. As I anticipated, some clouds have darkened the sun & Jinnah threatens not to give us an answer for 3 or 4 weeks! {4} I really don’t know what to make of it. But there are still many encouraging signs. Brailsford, Sapru & many others have sent us delightfully enthusiastic congratulations. At the moment it looks as if Congress will come in. I see Lord Samuel spoke some very kind words about me in the H of Lords on Thursday May 16. I hope you got a copy.

And so my darling, my true heart, my beloved, my dear Wife I send you my love & blessing for May 26.

Your very own loving Boy.

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There are a number of characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘tht’ for ‘that’.

{1} Maud Coote.

{2} The statement by the Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy, published on the 16th. See Transfer of Power, vol. vii, No. 303.

{3} Transfer of Power, vol., vii, No. 303.

{4} See Transfer of Power, vol., vii, No. 322. The word ‘weeks’ is underlined three times.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—Is unlikely to return to England before she goes to the Isle of Wight. Gandhi is being awkward, but the Congress High Command is resisting his suggestion that the interim scheme should be rejected.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
June 19. 46.

My dear One.

I am afraid it is quite clear by now tht I shall not be home before you go to I W. I may be able to get off by the middle of next week or it may be the end of the month.

At the moment Gandhi is being very awkward. He suffers from high blood pressure & when he gets an idea he cant let go of it even if it goes contrary to wht he has been urging up to the day before. He prefers theoretical perfection as he sees it & is not really interested in the practical considerations of Governt which involve mutual accommodation. At the moment, almost for the first time in its history the Congress High Command {1} having been converted by him to sup-port our interim scheme are refusing to “right about face” at his suggestion & wreck it. Whether they will stand firm on this remains to be seen. But Nehru has chosen this moment to go to Kashmir about some internal trouble & may get himself into trouble there. In any case he is likely to be away for 2 or 3 days. It is Alice’s croquet party all over again. But we still remain hopeful.

The weather here is both hot & humid. The monsoon is expected soon. It looks like rain to-day.

I do so hope tht you will enjoy I W & that your holiday will not be spoilt by my non-arrival. You may be sure I will come as soon as even I can. Give my dear love to Tom. And for yourself old darling arms round tight.

Your very own
Boy.

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This letter includes the abbreviated forms ‘tht’ for ‘that’ and ‘wht’ for ‘what’.

{1} ‘The term “High Command” refers to the members of the Working Committee, the Con-gress president, and the general secretaries of the Congress appointed by the president.’ Marcus F. Franda, ‘The Organizational Development of India’s Congress Party’, Pacific Affairs, xxxv (1962). 249 n.

Carbon copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Indira Gandhi

11 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London, W.C.2.—Has returned to England, and Helen is on the way to America to see her children. Thanks her and her father (Nehru) for their hospitality. His interview with Miss Naidu at Calcutta was brief, as she was recovering from influenza. Has sent a letter of thanks for Miss Rao (see 2/112).

Letter from V. K. Krishna Menon to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

India House, Aldwych, London, W.C.2.—Explains why Nehru has decided not to become a candidate for the chancellorship of the University of Cambridge. Encloses a copy of his letter to the Vice-Chancellor (1/350).

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Transcript

India House, | Aldwych, | London, W.C.2.
5th November, 1950.

My dear Lord Pethick-Lawrence,

After the interview which you were kind enough to afford me, and our long talk, I sent a very full telegram to Panditji setting out all the facts. I had a reply from him which reveals both his concern for advice and his own embarrassment. He has asked me to say that he was very grateful to you for thinking of him in this connection and the discussions with me. He has told me in confidence, and I think it is right to tell you this for your own information, that there is very strong feeling in India about the whole business of a contest at all in which Panditji is involved. Indian public opinion has to be taken into account. It would be very resentful of a contest, and would be even more so if it went wrong in results! Panditji feels that the whole business may even have a bad effect on Indo-British relations and he says we cannot take that risk. He has, therefore, asked me to convey to you all this, and also to take such immediate steps as are possible to establish contact with the people concerned, in Cambridge, and to tell them that they should in whatever form possible, effect a withdrawal of his name. If necessary, I was to tell them in confidence of our difficulty in the matter. He has also authorised me to say to them that they could announce that the decision to have his name withdrawn was taken at his request. Also he is very conscious of the honour done to him by you and the rest of his supporters, and that no discourtesy to the University is intended in his decision.

I am glad to say that I was able to meet the Cambridge people last Friday. Mr. Gold and others, who came here to see me. I persuaded them after nearly an hour and a half’s talk to take the necessary steps for effecting a withdrawal. They were, however, most upset and resentful of the intervention of the Vice-Chancellor which they thought had spoilt the issue for them, but appreciated the Prime Minister’s difficulty. They have made a communication to the Vice-Chancellor, to whom I have also written. I enclose a copy of the letter for your personal information.

Being the weekend I was not able to get in touch with you. I spoke to the Observer people myself and I think they have dealt with the matter sympathetically.

Very kind regards,

Yours sincerely,
Krishna

Lord Pethick Lawrence of Peaslake, P.C.,
11, Old Square,
Lincoln’s Inn, W.C.2.

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Typed, except the signature.

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